Union says Wilko stores will ‘close within weeks’

Administrators for the stricken retailer Wilko have denied plans to close stores next week after the GMB union said “the majority” would be shut.

The GMB, which represents more than 3,000 of Wilko’s 12,500 staff, said it was told the high street chain is set to announce a raft of redundancies as a result.

Wilko has a store in New Conduit Street, Lynn – with all goods on sale at marked down prices in recent days as a result of the company’s current issues.

The Wilko store in King's Lynn
The Wilko store in King’s Lynn

However, administrators at PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) said claims the stricken retailer would close stores next week were “speculation”.

The GMB union issued another statement later on Wednesday evening saying closures would occur “within weeks” rather than “within a week”.

The retailer tumbled into administration two weeks ago, putting the future of its 400 shops in doubt.

Administrators from PwC then sought offers from potentially interested firms in an effort to save jobs and stores.

The union said on Wednesday it was told in a meeting that “there is no longer any prospect that the majority of the business will be saved”.

As a result, it said there are expected to be redundancies affecting staff in stores and call centres.

Some stores may still be bought, either individually or as part of larger packages, as part of the insolvency process.

Rivals Poundland, B&M, The Range and Home Bargains were reportedly among the firms interested in parts of the Wilko business.

In a statement, the joint administrators of Wilko denied the claims and said: “In the immediate term, all stores remain open, continue to trade and staff continue to be paid.

“Contrary to speculation, there are currently no plans to close any stores next week.”

But the administrators admitted “redundancies and store closures in the future” were “likely” and said employees representatives had been informed.

The statement from Jane Steer, Zelf Hussain and Edward Williams of PwC, joint administrators of Wilkinson Hardware Stores Ltd, Wilko Ltd and Wilko.com Ltd, continued: “Since our appointment as administrators of Wilko, we have held extensive discussions with parties who expressed an interest in buying all or part of the business.

“While discussions continue with those interested in buying parts of the business, it’s clear that the nature of this interest is not focused on the whole group.

“Sadly, it is therefore likely that there will be redundancies and store closures in the future, and it has today been necessary to update employee representatives.

“We know this will further add to the uncertainty felt by workers.

“We will be supporting staff through this deeply unsettling time, working closely with the Government, JobCentre plus, unions and large employers to maximise possibilities for a rapid return to work for employees in the event of redundancies.”

Andy Prendergast, GMB national secretary, said: “GMB union will continue to support members through this process and will fight to ensure members are consulted as per the law and that you receive every penny you are entitled to.

“We will fight to ensure Wilko bosses are held accountable for the simple reason our members deserve so much better.

“GMB will not forget the incompetence that has led to this collapse and we will not forget the dividends paid to the millionaires who gambled your jobs on their whims.”

Labour said the news Wilko stores were likely to shut would have “a massive impact” on high streets across the country.

Shadow business secretary Jonathan Reynolds paid tribute to Wilko staff and added: “Sadly, shuttered-up shops and struggling high streets have become the norm after 13 years of Conservative economic failure.

“Labour has a plan for our high streets. We will tackle the things holding firms back by reforming business rates, cracking down on anti-social behaviour and putting an end to empty premises to bring shoppers back to their high street.”